There is something to be said about a meal that’s too good to wait to sit down at the table to eat.
Instead, it’s devoured standing up, leaning against the kitchen counter, plate or bowl in hand, eyes closed, chewing emphatically, head swaying slightly from side to side.
A deep breath and another bite taken. No sense wasting time taking those few steps to the vacant chair nearby. This meal is simply too good to waste even a second of time on such decorous technicalities.
I had one of those meals tonight. I had no idea it would be like that when I set out to make it, a few ingredients thrown together to use up what I had in the fridge.
Kale, eggs, soy cream, mushrooms, butter, and shallots and thyme from the pantry.
As I fried my mushrooms until the edges turned a warm caramel, I took in their earthy aroma. Nice, sure. But it wasn’t until I added the kale, coated everything in cream and added a pinch of thyme that the scent of heaven danced through the entire house.
It should have been a sign that something resembling perfection was being concocted. But I wasn’t thinking about it like that. It was a pragmatic supper, one I was certain would do its job of sating my hunger and clearing some valuable real estate in my vegetable crisper.
In the background, the muffled sounds of trumpet spilled out of speakers with guitar and maracas in tandem with Ibrahim Ferrer’s smooth voice. As I chopped, sautéed and stirred, I was transported back to the Havana bar I sat in just two weeks ago. It was loud and crowded, sweaty and spirited. Quintessentially Cuba.
It was escape in my own kitchen, my mind flitting between the warmth of Havana and that of meal taking shape before me. Some kind of culinary alchemy was taking place, between the music and the ingredients, catalyzed by my hunger.
The final step in my transmuting simple ingredients into dinner gold was pressing the kale concoction into ramekins, cracking an egg into the middle and baking for 15 minutes in the oven. And in those moments, something happened, not just to my dinner, but to me.
I couldn’t be bothered to put my meal on a plate when I pulled it out of the oven. Couldn’t be bothered to carry it over to the dinner table and enjoy it sitting down at a leisurely pace. Instead, I immediately reached for a fork, seeing those sunny yolks surrounded by a border of beautiful kale greens, and dug in.
The yolk spilled, my eyes and mouth widened. The warmth of the ceramic ramekin in my hands, the creaminess of yolk, the heartiness of the kale, and delicate earthiness of the mushrooms and thyme — it was perfect.
It was also gone too fast. I tried to make it last by sweeping up the leftover bits, too fine for my fork, with a slice of toast. It was as close to licking out the ramekin as I could come, but had I been able to fit my face into the dish, I probably would have.
I looked down at the empty dish, not a crumb to spare, Ibrahim Ferrer belting out his last song.
Dinner table and dining etiquette be darned. I can’t wait to do that again.
Baked eggs with kale, cream and mushrooms
1.5 tablespoons butter
2 shallots finely sliced
1 cup of mixed chopped mushrooms
3.5 cups of chopped kale, stems removed
1/3 cup soy cream/heavy cream
1 pinch (about 1/4 teaspoon) dried thyme
Salt to taste
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Sauté mushrooms and shallots in melted butter until mushrooms are golden.
Add kale, stirring until wilted, about three to five minutes.
Add cream, coating kale and mushrooms. Add thyme and salt. Cook for one minute.
Divide kale mixture between two ramekins, hollowing out the middle to make room for the eggs. Crack one egg into each ramekin.
Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with toast.